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The British F tuba

Postby Andrew » Thu Aug 26, 2010 3:35 pm

I am undertaking a long research project into the British F tuba, its players and its sudden demise in the early 1970s. I'd welcome any contributions. Please contact me at principal@oxfordschoolofmusic.org.uk" target="_blank

There is much confusion over the two MAIN types of F tuba found in British orchestras up to 1970s. All were made to the traditional British pattern of tuba with a RH bell, 3 RH top pistons and 1 or 2 LH side pistons. All were made to special order, were always few in number and were handed down from player to player

1) The first type used the compensating system designed by David James Blaikley in 1874. F tubas of this type were made by Boosey and Boosey & Hawkes after a company merger in 1930 and were usually given the Besson badge after 1948. This type of F tuba was the most common type to be found and differed considerably in size over the years. A c1933 example is here (scroll down): http://www.tubanews.com/index.php?optio ... &Itemid=86" target="_blank

2) The second type was initiated by the virtuoso tuba player Harry Barlow who was active till his death in 1932. He was a founder member of the London Symphony Orchestra in 1904 and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1930. 15 of these 'Barlow' tubas were made to his specification by Besson. They were 5-valve NON-compensating instruments. A c1931 example is here: http://www.music.ed.ac.uk/euchmi/ucj/ucjg4048qfr_s.jpg" target="_blank

An additional type was the much more recent Besson Sovereign F tuba which was built on the LH bell, front-valve, German/USA pattern

Almost all British symphonic tuba players played one of these two main types of F tuba until the arrival on the scene of John Fletcher in 1964 who always played (and improved) the B&H/Besson EEb 4-valve compensating tuba as his bass instrument and a number of CC tubas as his contrabass instrument
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Re: The British F tuba

Postby imperialbari » Fri Aug 27, 2010 1:01 am

Mine has #91537 on the second valve casing and #117426 on the bell.

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Re: The British F tuba

Postby k001k47 » Sat Aug 28, 2010 2:36 am

It'd be cool to get a thread of British styled F tubas going. I've always wanted to own one of those 3+1 Besson Fs.
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Re: The British F tuba

Postby Highams » Sat Aug 28, 2010 12:21 pm

The Knellar Hall museum has one and I'm sure would give you details/numbers etc. I saw it only a few weeks ago, v.nice condition.

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Re: The British F tuba

Postby Wyvern » Sat Aug 28, 2010 4:17 pm

There is a nice F tuba in the Horniman museum in London. Picture below (F on the left with Imperial Eb on right). I was surprised how large was the F having tried one of the smaller ones previously
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Re: The British F tuba

Postby Ace » Sat Aug 28, 2010 6:18 pm

Here's the use of the F tuba used in the old radio show referenced in Neptune's post above.

http://www.otr.net/?p=hnck
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Re: The British F tuba

Postby imperialbari » Sat Aug 28, 2010 8:59 pm

Image

The F tuba to the left appears to be of the Barlow 3+2P non-compensating type. The 3rd valve loop looks short, but the Brits like a hand-rest behind their 3 top valves. In some euphoniums and BBb basses it is a fake tube not being part of the acoustical tubing. In some F and Eb basses it is the inner top bow. Here it is a part of the 3rd loop wrapping.

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Re: The British F tuba

Postby Andrew » Sat Aug 28, 2010 11:03 pm

Thanks everyone for the replies and pics. In 2 weeks time I am planning to play this c1931 Besson 'Barlow' F, serial number 124581, as seen in the Horniman Museum, London. It's on loan there from Edinburgh University's Collection of Historical Musical Instruments. Their list of tubas is here http://www.music.ed.ac.uk/euchmi/ubl/ublh10.html" target="_blank

I've found these film clips of John 'Tug' Wilson playing a Besson 'Barlow' F in the Philharmonia Orchestra. It may well be the same instrument as currently displayed in the Horniman. Tug retired in 1965 and Vic Saywell may have acquired it. Certainly Vic had already got a Besson 4-valve F compensator which looked new when I met him in 1963

1) Verdi Requiem - 1964 - http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=D4M6VAY ... re=related" target="_blank - close-up from 2:45
2) Mussorgsky - Great Gate of Kiev - 1961 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJfR5DY- ... re=related" target="_blank - close-up from 3:58
3) Mussorgsky - Bydlo - 1961 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9Ze4v3T ... re=related" target="_blank - close-up from 01:48

Also here's a complete 1959 audio recording of Tug Wilson playing in Frank D minor Symphony - playing which John Fletcher greatly admire and often referred to as the essence of what the British F tuba was capable of in the hands of a great player: concentrated, pungent and distinctive

4) Ist movt http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qu8qoDpFkVs" target="_blank (no tuba in 2nd movt)
5) 3rd movt http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYqOfdFtUwQ" target="_blank

Keep the replies coming!

Andrew Claxton
principal@oxfordschoolofmusic.org.uk" target="_blank
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Re: The British F tuba

Postby Chuck Jackson » Sat Aug 28, 2010 11:24 pm

Mussorgsky - Bydlo - 1961 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9Ze4v3T ... re=related" target="_blank - close-up from 01:48

The Euphonium player looks just like John Fletcher!!!!

I have long admired the tuba playing on all the Philharmonia recordings w/Klemperer, actually I find it to be consistently the BEST playing on recordings ever done up along with Joe Novotny and Pre-Hirsbrunner Chester Schmitz. It is nice to be able to put a name to that fine playing, and to be a bit more than a little amazed that that massive sound came out of an instrument of such modest proportions(Klempy's Bruckner 4 is an astounding reading of that score, none better in my opinion). I guess size doesn't matter after all. Thank you!!!!

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Re: The British F tuba

Postby imperialbari » Sun Aug 29, 2010 12:07 am

That Klemperer link didn’t work for me.

Would a couple of Klemperer stories be allowed?

George Szell conducted Debussy’s La Mer. Klemperer was in the audience. Afterwards somebody asked what he thought about that performance of La Mer:

La Mer? It was rather Zell am See?

Klemperer stayed with the Philharmonia until very old and did a lot of recordings with them. They accepted his tendency to fall asleep in his seat. The orchestra always continued playing the actual take. Once Klemperer fell asleep shortly into a symphony movement, and the leader in a kind way woke him up saying:

Maestro, we finished the movement.

Klemperer: Was it good?

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Re: The British F tuba

Postby Andrew » Sun Aug 29, 2010 12:37 am

Ha ha re Klemperer!

Chuck, you'd also be surprised then that Tug Wilson always played on a really small mouthpiece (of his own making)! His thinking was remarkably 'Jacobesque' - a big sound originates in the imagination not in the instrument

However a practical reason British players up to the 1970s made such a big sound on their F tubas is because they had almost all been service-band/brass-band euphoniumists. To a euphoniumist an F tuba is a 'big' instrument! There were no specialist tuba teachers at post-school level until the mid-60s when John Fletcher was appointed tuba professor at the Royal Academy of Music and even John came to the tuba from the French Horn. Tug Wilson had been a career euphonium soloist in the RAF Central Band for many years before he first became a professional orchestral tuba player in 1946 (London Philharmonic Orchestra) and if you think his playing is impressive with the Philharmonia you should try and hear the Boult recordings of the 1946-58 period with the LPO and Tug on F tuba (particularly the complete recordings of Vaughan Williams Symphonies of the 1950s)

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Re: The British F tuba

Postby Andrew » Sun Aug 29, 2010 12:39 am

The euph player in that Philharmonia film clip was a young Ray Premu
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Re: The British F tuba

Postby imperialbari » Sun Aug 29, 2010 12:55 am

I have tried whatever to make that Klemperer-Bydlo link work. In vain as the format is said to be wrong. And I can’t trace it with search engines. Would somebody please provide it in its proper form fenced by the URL brackets?

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Re: The British F tuba

Postby Andrew » Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:04 am

Here's the Bydlo clip again, Klaus http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9Ze4v3T ... re=related

The euph player is the Philharmonia's wonderful American bass trombonist 1958-88 Ray Premu http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Premru. He's playing the norm of euphoniums throughout the Brit sphere of influence - a B&H Imperial 4-v comp - for the long period before the Sovereigns were launched in the 1980s

Tug Wilson's close-up is from 1:46 and clearly shows a tuba of the 'Barlow' pattern (3 + 2). I'm currently trying to clarify whether this Barlow F tuba - serial number 124581 - is indeed the same one being exhibited in the Horniman museum http://www.music.ed.ac.uk/euchmi/ucj/ucjg4048qfr_s.jpg. It is said to be a superb instrument and might even be worth copying. I've been given the Horniman Barlow's measurements (in cms)......

0 14.3 mouthpiece receiver
40 13.2 minimum
295 17.9 1st valve entry
505 18.8 4th valve entry
605 18.8 5th valve exit
735 18.8 main tuning-slide proximal outer
795 18.8 main tuning-slide proximal eps
1025 22.8 main tuning-slide distal eps
1083 22.8 main tuning-slide distal outer
1305 28.6 ferrule proximal
1339 29.8 ferrule distal
1484 34
1584 37.2
1619 37.8
1776 43.4
1996 50.4
2183 59.5
2221 60.4
2266 62.1
2331 64.3 ferrule proximal
2361 66.2 ferrule distal
2841 91.6 ferrule proximal
2872 ferrule distal
3302 157
3552 430 bell end

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Re: The British F tuba

Postby imperialbari » Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:37 am

Thank you very much for the link!

The total shots in this video show 3 trombones sitting up back right with the euphonium player on the right flank. I don’t see a tuba player. Does that indicated that the euphonium played the tuba part all through this performance of Ravel’s setting of Pictures?

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Re: The British F tuba

Postby Andrew » Sun Aug 29, 2010 8:11 am

Klaus, the Bydlo clip should last for 2:32. The tuba shot starts from 1:46

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9Ze4v3T ... re=related
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Re: The British F tuba

Postby imperialbari » Sun Aug 29, 2010 8:32 am

Thanks, I found out about where my mistake occurred, and I saw the tuba this time.

Actually I had taken the tutti tuba for being the euphonium. But the euphonium really was played by the bass trombonist. Here in DK it usually is the 1st trombonist who does the solo on a euphonium. When our RSO did pictures under Celibidache around 1973, the first trombone played Bydlo on a Conn 24I.

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Re: The British F tuba

Postby Rick Denney » Tue Aug 31, 2010 12:33 pm

No study of British F tubas should be attempted without first consulting Cliff Bevan. Bevan has attempted to inventory both the Barlow-style orchestral F's and the compensating style instruments, and the inventory as it stood several years ago is in the second edition of his book, The Tuba Family, which is published by Piccolo Press.

The instrument used by Catelinet for the premiere of the Vaughan Williams was the compensating style. Jacobs used a similar instrument when he recorded the Vaughan Williams. Jay Rozen used to own one of these, and I had an opportunity to blow a few notes on his, but it was before I was prepared to make judgments of F tubas. Last time Jay and I talked, he was playing a Yamaha 621 and I don't know what happened to the Besson.

(Speaking of the Yamaha, I would bet that it is the most similar instrument to an early Besson orchestral F of any instrument currently on the market.)

There is a probably apocryphal story that Fletcher, when asked why he didn't play an "orchestral F" instead of his "band EEb", his response was, "because I haven't bloody got one, have I?" I doubt that it's true but I really hope that it is.

There is a picture in Bevan's first edition, published by Scriveners in 1978, of George Wall playing a Barlow F tuba in his youth. There is also a picture of him some years later, perhaps in the 70's, playing a large Alexander Kaiser.

There, that's my core dump on the subject, heh.

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Re: The British F tuba

Postby Art Hovey » Tue Aug 31, 2010 11:31 pm

Just curious: Does anyone know how the five valves were tuned on the Barlow tuba?
Was the 5th a "long whole-step", or a "two whole-step", or something else?
Was the 4th valve a "C" or a Db?
I could be wrong, but don't recall seeing that information in Bevan's book.
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Re: The British F tuba

Postby J.c. Sherman » Wed Sep 01, 2010 11:17 am

I'll second the recommendation to consult with Mr. Bevan. He is the recognized authority on the subject, and it's his home turf to boot.

Also, contact Howard Johnson. He has a remarkable Hawkes 3+1 Compensating F, which may be the finest tuba ever constructed, ever. I was given the wonderful opportunity to try it and when I did, my companions' eyes all bulged out - one person told me "you need that tuba!" At any rate, it is quite old, restored, and not on the Barlow template.

Documenting the British F should also take into account the use and transition from it's predecessors, the Euphonium and the Ophicleide. Like France, the English didn't move to the tuba as quickly as other countries. Answering "why" will give you clues as to why the F and Eb didn't cross paths often...

Ray Premru was an excellent valve player; he had a remarkable Bach bass trumpet as well.

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